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ב"ה

DO YOU BELIEVE OR DO YOU TRUST?

Thursday, 21 April, 2022 - 6:01 am

Last Pesach, an Orthodox friend of mine, Shmuly, was at a business meeting during the middle days of the holiday. When lunchtime came, his colleagues went out to local restaurants, but Shmuly remained at the conference table and took out his matzah and hard-boiled egg. As he unwrapped it, another colleague joined him and unwrapped his lunch too. It was ham and cheese—on matzah.
The colleague looked at Shmuly with a relieved smile and said:
“Boy, I'm glad I'm not the only one. It's hard to explain Passover, isn't it?” Well, today I want to explain the name of the holiday.
On the seventh day of Passover, we are reading in the Torah about what happened on that day thirty-three hundred years ago the splitting of the Red Sea is one of the greatest miracles in Jewish history. Before crossing, the Israelites were still in Egyptian territory under Pharaoh’s control. Once across the sea, however, they were forever liberated. They became, for the first time in all of history, a people ruled by the sovereignty of G-d alone. Their destiny lay on the other side of that body of water.  
The Sages wonder who the catalyst for this epic event was. How did it happen? Who was the first person to feel the saltwater against their face?
Charlton Heston believed that Moses was the catalyst.  In a famous scene in the movie Ten Commandments, Moses lifted his rod, and the waters rolled back. But the Talmud says that's not at all how it happened.
The Egyptians were closing in, and the sea wasn't moving. Even Moses’s prayers to G-d could not get the sea to split.  Each tribe refused to jump into the water first. During the ensuing debate, Nachshon, who was from the tribe of Judah, boldly leaped into the sea. He almost drowned when G-d suddenly divided the waters.
There are always good reasons to hesitate. Considerations of prudence or timing push us to hold back. Furthermore, psychologists tell us that the greater the number of people who might respond, the less likely it is that any individual will take responsibility. So why did Nachshon jump into the sea while all the Jews stood at the bank? What drove him to step forward?
Nachshon knew that at decisive moments in history, to hope, dream, and even pray, is not enough. Courageous action is needed.
It was in Munich in Nazi Germany in the late 1930s.  Light snow was falling, and the streets were crowded with people. Susie had been riding a city bus home from work when SS storm troopers suddenly stopped the coach and began examining passengers’ identification papers. Most were annoyed but a few were terrified. Jews were being told to leave the bus and get into a truck around the corner.
Susie watched from her seat in the rear as the soldiers systematically worked their way down the aisle. She began to tremble, tears streaming down her face. When the man next to her noticed that she was crying, he politely asked her why.
“I don’t have the papers you have. I am a Jew. They’re going to take me.”
The man exploded with disgust. He began to curse and scream at her. “You stupid woman,” he roared. “I can’t stand being near you! You are an idiot.”
An SS officer smiled, enjoying the abusive words. Intrigued, he asked what all the yelling was about.
“Damn her,” the man shouted angrily. “My wife has forgotten her papers again! I’m so fed up. She always does this.”
The soldiers laughed and moved on.
Susie survived. She never saw the man again. She never even knew his name. I would call him ‘Nachshon’ because he had that kind of courage.
Among the Jews at the Red Sea, there were good people, wise people, even faithful people who cried out to G-d. But only Nachshon jumped.  It is not always, the Talmud intimates, the great Moses who lifts his rod to make a “Sea Change,” of difference; it can be any of us when we throw our justified caution to the wind to take a leap of action.
Both Nachshon and the Jews who prayed at the Sea had genuine faith in G-d. So, what was the difference between them?
A story I read long ago contains the answer. In the middle of the night in a small farming community, the two-story house of a young family caught fire. Quickly everyone made their way through the smoke-filled house out into the front yard. Everyone except a five-year-old boy. The father looked upward to the boy's room and saw his son crying at the window, rubbing his eyes.
The father knew that he could not reenter the house to rescue his son, so he yelled, "Son, jump! I'll catch you."
Between sobs, the boy responded, "But I can’t see you."
The father answered with great assurance. "No, son, you can't, but I can see you!"
The boy jumped and was safe in his father's arms.
The boy had faith in his father, but when he jumped, he had trust.
You’ve heard of Trust Fall? It is a team-building exercise in which a person deliberately falls, trusting the members of a group to catch them. It is not called “belief fall.” Belief means “I believe that they can catch me, but I’m afraid they won’t.” Trust is putting ourselves in the hands of another. “Belief” is the product of the mind, and “trust” is the product of the heart.
At the Sea, many Jews had faith in G-d, but Nachshon jumped; he had trust.
The story of the Israelites at the sea is the story of our own lives. Who among us has not at times felt overwhelmed by challenges that threaten to wash over us?
At those times take comfort in the thought of the size of G-d's hands. He's got the whole world in his hands, so they're big enough to catch you when you are in free-fall. When he says "Jump, "to do what is right, like Nachshon’s jump, take a leap of action, put yourself in G-d’s hands. Be comforted that with Him you will get through.

Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky

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